I debated with myself whether or not I should do this post. Not just because I figured that other websites would be doing similar tributes on the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center Attacks and would probably do it better than I ever could. And I realize that it is timely, it’s relevant, and someone might just find my post informative. I understand the desire to commemorate these events and recognize the multitude of stories that happened in someway. I am as enthralled as everyone else in learning about the heroics and the unknown stories that people might be writing about. Unfortunately, I also recognize that some people commemorate the events or do certain things to profit from the intrigue, whether it be monetary or non-monetary gain. I don’t want to be lumped into those people. Personally, I’m doing this post to make people aware of these books, which are available for use with children who might not be familiar with the events. While not specifically talking about the towers and terrorism, they provide a starting point for conversations, and where they might lead is up to the child and the adult.
This rhyming picture book tells the story of the September 11th events but focuses on the Chapel of Old St. Paul, which according to the verse
“Since Seventeen Hundred and Sixty Six
Has stood this house of God and bricks.”
What really bring the emotion into focus is her stanzas forecasting
“But doom, doom was coming all the time
Doom, doom to a city fair and fine;
Doom, doom was in the planes that climbed;
Doom, doom, and then the sirens whined.”
That cadence specifically reminds me of Casey at the Bat, and if you don’t hear the upcoming horror in her word choice, just look at Golino’s accompanying illustrations, which show a plane almost touching the tip of its nose to one of the towers. Other small details that readers might want to keep their eyes peeled for is the symbolic shadow adjacent to the firefighters raising the flag, and the t-shirt of a boy visiting a firehouse to thank its residents. While the images are not graphic in nature, the poem reveals little details that might disturb younger audiences, like the fact that fire fighters left shoes on the iron fence as they pulled on their boots, never to return to reclaim them. In my opinion its the last lines which are the most poignant:
“It’s nice to be big and it’s nice to be tall
But sometimes, being little
Doesn’t mean being small.”
Title: 14 Cows for America
Author: Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
Illustrator: Thomas Gonzalez
Publisher/Date: Peachtree Publishers, c2009.
It’s Thomas Gonzalez’s pictures that really create an eye-catching and striking presentation and a somber tone of remembrance. Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah (called Kimeli in the book) returns to his Kenyan Maasai village nine months after witnessing the events of September 11th while studying to be a doctor. He relates the events, and asks the elders to bless his only cow as a gift to the Americans, because as the text relates “To the Maasai, the cow is life”. Other villagers join in this presentation, and in the end 14 cows are dedicated for America. While the text itself is sparse and adheres to the less is more philosophy, it’s the note at the end that elaborates on this concept and the meaning behind the villagers actions. Kimeli teaches us that “To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own.” Kimeli feared that “some pains are too big for one chest to carry,” and so other villagers offered their own cows. The cows have calved and now number 35. I wonder if the day will come when the herd eventually grow so that there is one for every person who lost their life on that day. There is a website, http://www.14cowsforamerica.com, that also provides additional information about the cows and the culture, which would be great to aid in discussions.
This book was published about a year after the World Trade Center fell, and it’s also the most straightforward of the books on the list. In it, Kalman portrays the original use of the John J. Harvey fireboat to fight fires 70 years before the Towers were attacked. Almost scrapped for the metal, a group of citizens band together to save the fireboat. It’s a good thing they did, since after the firefighters ran out of water pressure, they enlisted the help of the John J. Harvey and two other fireboats to first ferry people away from the fire and then pump water out of the Hudson. Featuring pictures of two plains flying very close to the towers and another one with firework like explosions, it presents in the most obvious manner what happened that day, which some might feel is a little too much for younger readers. Look it over yourself before picking this as a read aloud (which you should always do anyways) and make your own decision. More information about the John J. Harvey can be found on the website http://www.fireboat.org.
We’ve had three books featuring a chapel, a fireboat, and cows. This last picture book recommendation features a man who saw the towers from an undeniably unique perspective. If you’re looking for something with more discrete ties to the events of September 11th, this might be the book for you. This Caldecott Award Winner tells the story of Philippe Petit’s 1974 hour-long tightrope walk between the two towers. He and his friends secretly suspended a rope from one end to the other during the night, and Philippe proceeded to elude police and capture by dancing and performing on the rope. The pictures will inspire readers’ imaginations to soar to new heights with the breath-taking views both from the air and from the ground. While not specifically about September 11th, the book can’t help but pay tribute to the now missing playground, and broached the topic with deftness.
Have I missed any? How did you explain the events today to the young children in your life?